The Lucky Ones

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Modern Age

The Lucky Ones
Author: Williams Jackson, Linda
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Time Period: Modern Age
Time Frame: 1967
Geographic Area: North America
Country: United States
Topics: Civil Rights poverty
Genre: Fiction
Reading Age: Middle Grade, Upper Middle Grade
Format: Chapter Book
Published: 2022

American History > Modern Age > African American History

Award-winning author Linda Williams Jackson pulls from her own childhood in the Mississippi Delta to tell the story of Ellis Earl, who dreams of a real house, food enough for the whole family—and to be someone.

It’s 1967, and eleven-year-old Ellis Earl Brown has big dreams. He’s going to grow up to be a teacher or a lawyer—or maybe both—and live in a big brick house in town. There’ll always be enough food in the icebox, and his mama won’t have to run herself ragged looking for work as a maid in order to support Ellis Earl and his eight siblings and niece, Vera. So Ellis Earl applies himself at school, soaking up the lessons that Mr. Foster teaches his class—particularly those about famous colored people like Mr. Thurgood Marshall and Miss Marian Wright—and borrowing books from his teacher’s bookshelf.

When Mr. Foster presents him with a copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Ellis Earl is amazed to encounter a family that’s even worse off than his own—and is delighted by the Buckets’ very happy ending. But when Mama tells Ellis Earl that he might need to quit school to help support the family, he wonders if happy endings are only possible in storybooks. Around the historical touchstone of Robert Kennedy’s southern “poverty tour,” Linda Williams Jackson pulls from her own childhood in the Mississippi Delta to tell a detail-rich and poignant story with memorable characters, sure to resonate with readers who have ever felt constricted by their circumstances.

Emily's Review

This was such a sweet story about a boy who wants better for himself and his family. Ellis Earl is a black boy living in Mississippi in 1967. He lives with his large family in a 3-room shack with barely enough food to eat. If things don't improve soon, he might have to drop out of school to get a job to help out. But Ellis Earl hates that idea, because he has big plans of doing something important someday so that no one will have to live in poverty as his family does. And he knows that to do that, he needs an education. When he gets the opportunity to be a part of the welcoming party for Robert Kennedy, he thinks this could be the most important moment of his life.

I loved the character of Ellis Earl. He is a very smart boy who wants better. He loves his family, even when they frustrate him. I loved his relationship with his teacher, Mr. Foster. Teachers like him can make such a big difference, and he definitely made a huge impact on Ellis Earl. He encouraged his students to think by discussing current events, and he always provided meals for them, knowing that many of them likely didn't have much to eat at home.

I also loved the way the author incorporated the book Ellis Earl was reading, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, into the story. As a fellow bookworm, I love when characters in books read real books, particularly ones that I have also read. It somehow makes the story feel more grounded in reality. I also loved watching Ellis Earl become a reader over the course of the book as he realized that he didn't think reading was boring, he just hadn't found the right book. Seeing how he connected with Charlie Bucket was a beautiful testament to the power of books.

I recommend this story to children ages 8+.

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